Back in The Saddle Again

Back in the water. KD Laksamana Muhammad Amin in the water at GOMS facility off Lumut.

SHAH ALAM: Back in the saddle again. Back in December 2021, Malaysian Defence posted that the KD Laksamana Muhammad Amin (pennant number 136) was undergoing a refit at the Grade One Marine Shipyard (GOMS) Sdn Bhd near Lumut. As part of the refit, she was getting a new hull to replace the old one that had been worn out.
Earlier, this month – December 4 – GOMS posted on its social media that Laksamana Muhammad Amin had completed a portion of the refit and it was to take part on the next phase of the programme.

KD Laksamana Muhammad Amin being taken out from the covered yard using a crane. GOMS

As the corvette had been put back into water, it is likely the ship was undergoing harbour trials before much of the equipment taken off prior to the refit would be installed. Once she passed the harbour tests, it is likely she will undergo sea trial prior to returning into RMN service.

GOMS workers and RMN personnel gathered for a group photograph prior to the down slipping off KD Laksamana Muda Amin. GOMS

The refit and re-hulling of Laksamana Muhammad Amin is part of the RMN’s Obsolescence Programme which involved the replacement of engines and other components of its Fast Attack Craft and the Laksamana class fleet. Under the same programme, some of the ships will have their superstructures mated to a new hull.

KD Laksamana Muda Amin (136) being taken out from GOMS covered facility where the refit programme was carried out. Note the newly painted hull and superstructure. GOMS

It appears that Laksamana Muhammad Amin will beat KD Perkasa which was among the first FAC to undergo a re-hulling refit.
A graphic explaining the OP for KD Laksamana Muhammad Amin. RMN


— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 1773 Articles
Shah Alam

51 Comments

  1. So basically it’s a chimera ship. Old superstructure mated to a brand new hull. Does all this work actually cost less than a new ship?

  2. I first heard of feasibility studies to rehull the class as far back as 2013/2014 [by that period various things were inoperable due to obsolescence and the hulls were already worn out] by an incredulous RMN officer. Never thought it would actually have to be implemented. At one point there was talk of the class being transferred to the MMEA but the MMEA would have fought tooth and nail.

  3. @ tom tom

    Probably. Steel are cheap, equipment are not afterall. Even if it’s not it’s not like there’s public support for RMN to get more mostly patrol only vessel.

  4. Well,at least RMN did something about some of their oldest ships. Quickly too. The Thais unfortunately didn’t and their corvette Sukhothai sank.

  5. Tom Tom -” Does all this work actually cost less than a new ship?”

    Yes and it’s easier to get approved because the bean counters don’t have to spend the cash needed for a new ship. Ultimately it’s a final resort solution and the bean counters still have to allocate funds at a later stage but to course they will drag it as far as possible.

  6. Taib – ”The Thais unfortunately didn’t and their corvette Sukhothai sank.”

    As it stands we don’t know exactly why she sank [no indication at present that a full SLEP would have prevented the tragedy] and the RMN had to do something to keep the FACs and Laksamanas operational. When we have to resort to such desperate measures as rehulling ships which are well past their retirement date; it’s an indication of how bad things are and how antipathetic the politicians are.

  7. The class has a new director and it’s impossible firing both guns without a director. The only guns which can be fired manually – with difficulty and great inaccurary – are the Bofors Mk1s.

  8. What actually the laksamanas are for? Combatant or non combatant? Because I don’t see any weapons aprt from the single deck gun.

  9. The RMN is pretty much a toothless Tiger nowadays. Maybe this is the government’s reverse psychology to other navies. Nobody would dare shoot at a little, helpless RMN patrol vessel because they would be seen as a ‘bully’ ! If only…

  10. There are two parts to the issue of asset replacements. 1) What is needed? and 2) What is available? In the end its all dollars and cents. We know the government is, 1) unable to pay for big military purchases, and / or 2) unwilling to pay for big military purchases. So there is the problem of long list of wants, but limited availability. The re-hull is simply a way to meet the long list of wants within the limited budget. Its not the best but its what is available. In summary how would you go about balancing the needs of the Navy against the budgetary constraints of the government? The Navy is not willing to drop any requests because it knows when it does so, the government will strike it off the list for perpetuity (or at least for the next 30 years). The government sees a list of RM50 billion in asset buys and is unwilling to pay for the list. So there is a need to prioritise, to enable execution. The idea of getting everything required is impossible. But the idea of getting some is possible. For example, instead of 6 LCS, we get 2. Instead of 8 LMS2 we get 4. Its not ideal, but that is still 6 new warships joining the fleet. Or, 0 LCS, 8 LMS2 and 1 MRSS and 2 to 4 Helicopters. That’s the reality. For me personally, its really about prioritising the lower risk and less politically maddening choice. Put the LCS under “review”, sign LMS2 next year for first 4 ships (repurpose some of the LCS equipment so we don’t have the FFBNW approach), and sign a long-term order for 1 MRSS (stretch the delivery so the government’s cashflows look better). None of the 5 ships will be built in Malaysia, hence the delivery and political risks are significantly lower than continuing with the LCS. Instead of 2 to 6 “new” ships with unknown delivery dates, the Navy gets 5 ships between 2025 to 2030. Instead of having the shipbuilding funds tied down by the LCS, we move ahead to get the new ships the Navy needs.

  11. Marhalim,

    Yes, I was pointing out that without a director the 76mm and 40mm can’t be fired manually [unlike the Bofors Mk1s on other vessels]. They only thing that could be fired were the 7.62mms. By the 2013/2014 period the directors were already having issues and both the 76mm and 40mm were inoperable. We had the same situation with the Saktis when the Decca Najas became inoperable but the Mk1 can be fired manually; as you know.

    Qamarul,

    Simple answer. All this is well known. Due to obsolescence issues a lot of stuff became inoperable [the ASW tubes went on the Kasturis] and the intention was to retire the class because the hulls were also in bad shape. As it stands the RMN had no choice but the retain the class in order to maintain the ability to meet day to day routine peacetime commitments but there is no intention to allocate more than the bare minimum to keep them running until they can finally be replaced.

  12. The previous chief had put two of the Laksamanas in storage together with two of the Mahamirus. All four were reactivated around 2019 as RMN lacked the hull s for patrol. The decision to store the four were part of the 15 to 5 so money for their maintenance and upkeep could be channelled to buy new assets. Whether or not it really happened that way is beyond me

  13. There is no money for the LMS 2 for the time being as the allocation has been pushed to pay for something else. Whether the money will be reallocated to LMS 2 is beyond me

  14. If not mistaken under the original 1525 all of these mostly patrol only vessel are to be replaced by new mostly patrol only vessel or at least a FFBNW one. A decision that wasn’t very popular with the public as buying Chinese patrol vessel to meet & greate Chinese warship was quite a cruel joke.

    As it is now, RMN do not plan on anymore newly built patrols only or FFBNW vessel thus the rehulling of laksamana & FAC are done mostly due to MMEA which saddle by a lot of old vessel without much commonalities didn’t want to take these vessel in. they also didn’t have enough manpower & shorebase asset to take in a lot of new vessel as well.

  15. Kel – ”The Navy is not willing to drop any requests because it knows when it does so, the government will strike it off”

    There is nothing left to drop; its wants list is at the bare minimum and has been since the issuing of the 5/15.

    kel – ”That’s the reality. For me personally, its really about prioritising the lower”

    What do you think the RMN has done? ”Prioritising” to the point that it can’t anymore because there is nothing left to ”prioritise”. The problem also is that the politicians and bureaucrats have a mind of their own; their ideas as to ”priorities” might differ to that of the RMN’s – that’s the ”reality” despite whatever claims are made in public. The army has it slightly easier than its sister services in getting what it needs.

  16. The OP is not due to MMEA but the fact that RMN is required to do the job of patrolling the country’s water and other peacetime tasks. Even if MMEA got all the ships to conduct such duties, RMN is still obliged to conduct peacetime duties. The LMS was procured as the government then thought it was necessary to engage with China and keep up the pretence that our relationship are hunky dory. RMN was just the tool for it

  17. At one point the Laksamana class was one of the most potent ship in RMN fleet

    Ofc being a rather small, bespoke ship it aged like milk.

  18. Making big ships not via local yards will be politically suicidal, especially if an economic recession later on leads to higher unemployment.

  19. Zaft – “As it is now, RMN do not plan on anymore newly built patrols only or FFBNW”

    Correct. It has no such intentions and would be more than happy if the MMEA was better resourced. This is something I’ve long pointed out and contrary to the mistaken assumption some have on a RMN which is reluctant to totally hand over the constabulary role to the MMEA. Another factor often overlooked is thAt even if the MMEA had a tenfold increase in vessels; the RMN would still be conducting various routine peacetime roles.

    Zaft – ” they also didn’t have enough manpower & shorebase asset to take in a lot of new vessel as well”

    Something often overlooked when there is talk of the MMEA getting more assets. It needs more manpower, funds and expanded shore support infrastructure; all major prohibiting factors in its expansion.

  20. dundun – ”At one point the Laksamana class was one of the most potent ship in RMN fleet”

    It was never the most ”potent” irrespective of it’s paper specifications. Bad seakeeping; cramped bridge and CIC; 1980’s vintage systems; issues with the Aspide/director; etc. Ask anyone who has served on them.

    dundun – ”bespoke ship it aged like milk.”

    It was made for ops in the Mediterranean and for the requirements of the Iraqis who did not need a ship to be at sea for more than a week and in an EEZ.

  21. Azlan,

    The laksamanas are ideal for the water that they play in, the Malacca Straits and around the langkawi archipelago.

    Kel,

    It is not a good idea to get little of everything, and causing not enough of anything.

    What RMN and MINDEF should do right now is to prioritize getting ASW Frigates ASAP (if possible done within RMK12). Either just dump money into Gowind project and finish it, or plan B buy another frigate design from a foreign shipyard to get those ships completed ASAP. This will most probably need the LMS Batch 2 to be scrapped and the budget used for getting those ASW Frigates.

    Other long term plans such as MRSS does not need foreign shipyards to build them.

    Any new build ships that can only do peacetime patrols should only be for MMEA, at costs not more than what MMEA pays for its Tun Fatimah OPVs.

    RMN needs to build up its warfighting capability, even if that means a leaner force (not exactly lean, but at the same current size just without small patrol crafts and OPVs, not considerably larger as per the 15 to 5 plan). Plan for a bigger frigate to replace Lekiu and Kasturi. Plan for more subs. Plan for follow up LMS that is low cost but with speed and range to follow the LCS Gowinds.

  22. I agree little bit of everything and not enough of anything is a bad strategy. Yet it doesn’t solve the issue of not enough money to buy everything. The Navy needs new ships more than it needs new capabilities. Like it or not, the LCS failure is a big headache from an operational and funding perspective. The Navy now finds itself without new ships until 2026 when the first was due in 2019. The Navy also finds itself unable to fund additional ships because more funds would be needed by the LCS. So the only way is either 1) Get FFBNW ships, 2) Get smaller and less capable ships, 3) Get less ships. Once again, the goal is no longer about capability, but new ships.

  23. Also, the longer term challenge should be on how to secure funds to buy new assets. Not how to fund programs. The government will always be cautious with big ticket purchases that require long-term financial commitments – ignoring the politics involved. So, there needs to a new approach to securing funds. For example, instead of thinking in terms of programs, think in terms of purchases or buys. A program is an expensive financial commitment which the government always hesitates since it commits the government to significant long-term financial obligations. But individual small purchases without significant long-term financial obligations might be an easier sell. MOF doesn’t care how many MRCA, LCA, LCS, LMS is eventually bought, only that it is within budget. Remember, both RMAF and RMN are suffering from attrition issues and the priority is new assets not new capabilities. 2 new LCA is better than 0 LCA. 2 new MRCA is better than 0 MRCA. 2 LMS is better than 0 LMS. 1 LCS is better than 0 LCS. Better to sign a contract for some assets than sign no contract.

  24. As an example, assume the Army, Navy, Air Force each asks for RM500m per year for asset acquisition, with a 3% increment in annual funding to account for inflation. In a 5-year funding bloc, each branch will have around RM2.7b. In total the Armed Forces will have RM7.96b over 5-years. How that RM7.96b is spent is up to the Armed Forces. Whether its buying 6 LCA, 4 MRCA, 3 LMS Batch 2, 1 submarine, 100 4×4, 100 6×6, 4 medium lift helicopters, 1 flat top, 200 drones, doesn’t matter. The Armed Forces will set out their buys based on their own priority. To the government, it doesn’t have to sign expensive long-term contracts, and is able to plan its finances better – it has visibility over the next 5-years. For a government that doesn’t like spending big money on military equipment, does it surprise anyone why its the smaller ticket items that gets green lighted but the big ticket items are not? So splitting big ticket items into smaller amounts might be the only way to get new ships and jets.

  25. Wong – “The laksamanas are ideal for the water that they play”

    You would think so wouldn’t you but not really.

    Wong – “Any new build ships that can only do peacetime patrols should only be for MMEA”

    Yes but as is well known the RMN doesn’t have the intention of getting any ships “that can only do peacetime patrols”‘

    Wong – “RMN needs to build up its warfighting capability, even if that means a leaner force”

    What do you think it’s trying to do? It also cant get anymore leaner as it’s intended force structure is down to the bare minimum.

    Wong – ” Plan for more subs.”

    It has such plans but is realistic enough to know that the financial and political isn’t conducive and won’t be for a while. Another issue is that it’s not subs by their own but subs with various enablers working in tandem which are effective; as has been clearly demonstrated.

    Wong – Plan for a bigger frigate to replace Lekiu and Kasturi”

    Yes … was of the same idea
    Who doesn’t get a hard on with larger ships but for various reasons which havee been throughly explained that the RMN doesn’t see the need for larger combatants due to threat perceptions and actual requirements.

  26. Kel – “2 new MRCA is better than 0 MRCA. 2 LMS is better than 0 LMS”.

    No. If you only have two jets and both are not serviceable then you don’t have the capability and the “the something better then nothing” cliche doesn’t work out.

    Kel – “Better to sign a contract for some assets than sign no contract”

    Not as simplistic as that. The bean counters might say and have been known to say “you already have a bit” so “wait a bit longer” for the rest.
    Having a “bit” looks good but in reality leads to issues.

    Kel – “The Armed Forces will set out their buys based on their own priority

    They actually set out their wants lists based on 5 Year Plans which is driven by the need to progressively upgrade capabilities and to replace stuff but in the face of tight fisted bean counters the services focus on pressing requirements. The issue is when there are multiple pressing requirements.

    Kel – “MOF doesn’t care how many MRCA, LCA, LCS, LMS is eventually bought”

    A bit of both… I know officers who were in teams which had to get things registered for funding. Numbers count and it’s not just the MOF but the EPU office. At times having a “bit” leads to issues as the bean counters use it as an excuse to further delay things.
    Won’t get into examples as I’m lazy.

    Kel- “The Navy needs new ships more than it needs new capabilities”

    It needs both and is clearly attempting to acquire both.

    Kel – ” goal is no longer about capability, but new ships”

    No. Incorrect. The new assets are also intended to enable capabilities not offered by assets being replaced.

  27. Those Pohang are equipped with gas turbines and are as old as the Laksamanas itself with an even higher mileage. On paper, it looks good, but why should RMN replace a high maintenance ship with a higher maintenance one?

  28. Marhalim Abas, Pohang structure is better than Laksamanas, how can you say that it is a high maintenance . Even Philippines and Vietnam get Pohang. Philippines get 1 Pohang and another 1 will arrived this year and they still request additional 2 Pohang so total will be 4 Pohang…So you mean Malaysia cannot maintain Pohang but Philippines and Vietnam can maintain Pohang.

  29. You could just sail the Pohangs on diesels only, and pickle the gas turbine engine. Speed limited to around 22+ knots but that is more than enough for patrolling duties.

    Use them for 10years. Recover those many oto melara 76mm and DARDOs on them to lower the cost of future frigates.

  30. Sir, in short the only reason is there is no enough budget for RMN. Cannot buy new ship, cannot get a 2nd hand ship to maintain and the only one we can do for now is to maintain the existing fleet..

  31. Jun – ”So you mean Malaysia cannot maintain Pohang but Philippines and Vietnam can maintain Pohang.”

    This is a common assumption people make; that just because others can do something; that we can too.

    The situation is different with Vietnam and the Philippines; they may see Pohangs as worth having; doesn’t mean it’s the same with us. As it stands the RMN has a huge problem maintaining aged and increasingly expensive resource to run ships.
    It doesn’t want more problems. Same reason why we rejected the offer for a Perry and other ships…

  32. OHPs main engines are gas turbine only.

    Other ships rejected (LPD) use steam turbine and manpower intensive.

    Pohangs are powered by 2x MTU diesels and 1x LM2500 Gas turbine. You can operate the pohangs on diesels only for OPV taskings. The pohangs are valuable due to its armament of 2x 76mm super rapid and 2x 40mm twin DARDO.

  33. Sir if always the budget is the issue for RMN maybe less than 5 to 10 years. Philippine navy will overtake the RMN even we have 2 submarine, especially almost all of their ship have now a sonar for anti submarine warfare brand new and 2nd hand.(2 Brp Jose Rizal and Luna)(2 brand new corverte)(3 Del Pilar Class former Hamilton)(4 pohang. 1 Brp Conrado Yap, 1 to be arrived this yr. And another 2 to requested) and by 2028 they will start their H3 modernization for LARGER Frigate and Submarine…So whats the PLAN for RMN just watch other ASEAN building their Navy and we just accept our fate and not facing the real and always make alibi that we dont need 2nd ship as a stop gap. …If we have a problem we need to accept and face the problem and make a solution. Govt must accept that We have a problem and it is the budget like LCS…

  34. “MOF doesn’t care …, only that it is within budget”
    But the Government do care about other factors. Any high priced items will be subjected to “national interest” goals so any ship build proposals that will be made at foreign yards will not pass the beancounters unless the PM sticks his neck out (as with PM7 and the LMS1) but that could also mean risking PM10’s head on the chopping block. Will he?

  35. The Navy don’t have the money to get new ships with the right capabilities simultaneously. That’s the reality. So its either just keep hammering away at we need 12 new ships with specification A that costs a lot of money which the government is hesitant to fund or 1) get fewer ships, or 2) get the same number of ships but less capable. Guaranteeing 2 LMS Batch 2 by 2026 is better than promises of 6 ships if the Navy waits for funding in the next RMK. We’ve seen how promises play out MRCA, MRSS, Nuri Replacement, SPH, etc. I’ll take certainty over promises until the acquisition process is fixed. I don’t know about the Navy, but getting 6 new ships with less capabilities is better than re-hulling and SLEPs. Attempting to fund an entire program is very difficult. But breaking a program into smaller periodic purchases might be easier to get through. This might actually prevent politicians from messing with programs. Of course, it wouldn’t work if the politicians being the decision makers, block such arrangements and insisted on 6 ship block buys so they can you know why…

  36. We ain’t gonna get any LMS2 before 2030. All gov contract goes through lengthy burocratic procedure. Remembered that the decision to go with gowind was made in 2011, construction only started by 2014 & delivery would be made by 2019.

  37. @Jun
    Its not that we don’t have the money (as in we would go broke if we budget for LCS), but its all a matter of mentality thinking that defence monies should be budgeted as low as possible and quietly dealt with as matters can be easily politicised. I recall the then Opposition were harping on LCS pricing and then erroneously comparing with other types of warships, when in actuality the LCS project is likely underbudgeted from the start (as in the more realistic budget should be RM 10-12Bil from get go). Again it comes back to the mentality that defence spendings are not important hence any such would need more concrete reasons and if such possibility, must come with economic benefits (ie TOT or localisation).

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